Published: 22nd November 2017
This Chennai artist just protested GST on pads in the artsiest way possible. And it's RAD!
The 24-year old was a mechanical engineering student but has always been passionate about art and is now pursuing it as a career — and his GST piece is simply stunning
Twenty-four-year-old wall artist B Gowtham was standing on the side of the road sipping tea in Kolathur, Chennai, when he noticed a beggar woman sitting down in a bloodstained skirt. He enquired if she was all right and needed any help. She told him that she couldn't afford to buy any sanitary napkins, so there was nothing she could do.
This incident, Gowtham said, really shook him.
That eventually led to his new campaign for affordable pads and its easy access to all sections of society — where he arranged packs of pads to spell GST, "In the past too, I've seen my mother and sister suffer so I've known how essential pads are. But after I spoke to the lady I really felt like I needed to do something. I read that the GST was under revaluation so I decided to wait and see if the tax on sanitary napkins was reduced but when I found out they hadn't I decided to protest in my own way," Gowtham explained.
Zender Bender: Gowtham's wall art is something else
A mechanical engineering graduate, he has been a wall artist over the last few years and is also an eager participant when it comes to social issues, so with this as well, he used his creativity to ensure his message drives home. Gowtham decided to use sanitary napkins in his art to spell the letters GST — with several of these pads painted red.
Use and Not-Throw Policy
One might wonder why instead of just distributing these pads, Gowtham decided to use it for his art. Truth is, they're not going to waste at all. "Initially I thought I would buy about 20 packs of pads and use them, then it struck me that it could also be used later. So I decided it was best to not actually paint the pads red, so I placed the pads and then coloured them red using Photoshop. So, right now, my mum is outside our house distributing them to the less privileged," he explained.
The GST on sanitary napkins is 12 per cent and this has set off a lot of debate on social media. But what is important to consider is the fact that the GST has only increased the price by one or two rupees and also reduced the prices by a rupee for some brands.
But Gowtham understands this economics, "I know that the pads cannot be sold tax-free because there are domestic manufacturers who need the money. But I think GST has put the issue in the limelight and it's time we consider making pads freely available to those who cannot afford it," he reasoned.
When condoms can be tax-free why not sanitary napkins, Gowtham asks. "There are millions of women who need pads in this country. If the tax that is taken for the pads is being used for development of this country, then I don't think we need that sort of development at all," he said.
Art of going Viral
The post which was uploaded on Wednesday has reached 70,000 people and had 400 shares, and has gained a lot of appreciation from both men and women. However, Gowtham's pride lies in the open discussion of the issue between men and women. "The stereotype is that women are uncomfortable talking about such issues on a public forum but they are breaking that stereotype. I think it is essential for men also to participate in this discourse."
This is Gowtham's 93rd creative artwork and he has painted restaurant walls, government school walls and of course created art to shine a light on social issues. He hopes to get to his 100th in the next few weeks but is waiting to create hundreds more.